West Nile alerts not reaching non-English speakers

posted by 24 Hour News 8 - 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Nile death of a Spanish-speaking man in Grand Rapids is raising questions about how to get health warnings to those who speak little or no English.

Family members of Miguel Hernandez, 80, said they had not heard the warnings about West Nile from local health officials. In fact, they had never heard of the virus until he was diagnosed early this month.

"This is something new to us," said the victim's nephew, Israel Hernandez, who often translates for the family.

Miguel Hernandez, a native of Mexico who lived on Grandville Avenue SW, died Saturday after 19 days in the hospital with West Nile.

"We couldn't believe it," his nephew said. "We didn't believe it that a small mosquito can do all that stuff to him."

Hernandez was among five Kent County residents diagnosed with West Nile so far this year, which is expected to be especially bad for the virus. Kent County Health Department officials said the other four are still being treated — three of them with serious symptoms, including some paralysis. One, a 64-year-old man from Grand Rapids, is near death. Health officials described him as nonresponsive.

While El Vocero, the local Spanish newspaper, has reported on West Nile, not all Spanish media have, including La Voz, the magazine published by Jose Flores.

"We have not received the alerts that this is a crisis situation," Flores said.

"I think there has to be a lot more activism on the part of the health department for Kent County to make sure people know what West Nile virus is and to make sure they're getting the word out," he continued.

Ann Marie Rivera of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan said her agency wants to work with the health department to spread the word.

Full story via 24 Hour News 8

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